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Learning Skills Development Among Elementary School Children

Table of Contents

  1. Abstract
  2. Introduction
  3. Significance of the Study
  4. Scope and Limitations
  5. Review of Related Literature
  6. Methodology
  7. Conclusions and Recommendations
  8. References


The level in which children start developing their communication skills can be considered a challenging task; given the development of technology that also target this age group, these advantages have become a tremendous distraction, thus, the basic skills that need to be enhanced take a backseat because the attention is diverted into something more interesting. Communication skills play its two major roles in which a person gets to play the one who is communicating, and the one that receives the information; between these two, it has been observed that eventually, the focus of skills development has been on the expression rather than on the receiving end. Although reading skills are further enhanced with additional lessons on comprehension, listening skills, particularly in the grade school, have yet to reach a more developed phase. This paper presents a review of relevant literature on existing studies on listening skills, a methodology in which it enumerates the process to test the hypothesis, and conclusions and recommendations on further studies on the topic.

Improving Listening Skills in Grade School Learning


According to Cronin (1993), people generally spend more time listening than speaking. This shows that the moment a person wakes up, the brain’s activity first adjusts to its environment, and listening is an instant reflex in order to get information what the eyes cannot see: the goings-on outside the window, the conversations outside the door, the sound of the distant radio. It can also be observed that people can be easily roused from its catatonic state through sound, this is why people rely on their alarm clocks in order to wake up. Given these everyday examples, Cronin is right; we spend more time listening, being on the receiving end of the communication line rather than the one that relays the information. Even in the state of solitude, people can even listen to the “sounds of silence” since sound is almost everywhere, even with the absence of light.

However, although listening is a common activity, and people do rely on sound most of the time, there is still the question on whether people have improved their listening skills enough. Some may ask, if they can hear things okay, why bother develop something that is already regularly practiced?

There has been the common discussion on the difference between hearing and listening; apparently, “hearing” is something that people do most of the time, particularly in instances that the sound that is heard does not have to be decoded of its meaning. On one hand, “listening” is something else as it requires a number of other skills. Similar to reading, what a person “sees” does not necessarily mean is being “read”; this shows that for various degrees of information, the amount of attention it requires depend on the requirement of that information for a certain degree of attention and comprehension. Similar to texts, that are read, the sound that is listened to has meaning, and it is in the listener’s ear to interpret this information.

Thus, given that effective listening is a skill, its development should be inculcated throughout a person’s development, particularly starting at a young age. What can be deemed challenging for children before the grade school years is their attention are usually directed to objects that are dynamic, which more or less measures up to the energy that the child projects. However, the grade school period may vary; grade school lasts six to seven years on average, thus, the degree of attention span of each level may vary. The needs of those in the first and second grades are less sophisticated than those in the later years, although there is also the awkward phase in the third, fourth, and fifth grade when the stages of adolescence sets in. In summary, the skills that need to be developed have to be progressive, although the approach has to vary depending on the class the teacher is handling.

The rest of this paper discusses the importance of developing listening skills and how can this study add to the existing literature on the topic.

Significance of the Study

As abovementioned, sound is part and parcel of everyday life, and those who have the sense of hearing have to take advantage of this ability. However, like all communication channels, sound alone is developed into more complex forms, in which it ranges from a mere sound with meaning, i.e. emotion, to the development of languages in which a word is made up of various components of sound with a fixed meaning.

The subject of language alone shows that in the early stages of a person’s life, communication skills are already important, and language is among the foundation in which a person learns to communicate back. However, before language is learned, the child has to listen first how certain sounds are formed into words, and how it would eventually form its meaning. In this sense, the fact that a person learns his or her first language shows that listening skills are already applied at a very young age.

Barker, et al. (1995, p. 28) cites Pearson and Fielding (1983) in saying that “Listening involves the simultaneous orchestration of skills in phonology, syntax, semantics, and knowledge of text structure”; this means that the process of decoding sound involves a lot of systems that need to be understood as it makes up the whole context of the sound itself. In scientifically approaching the act of listening, this may involve other complex matters like the capacity of the ear to handle sounds, the diction and articulation of certain words, etc.; however, to simplify this, the importance of having good listening skills, especially among children, can be simplified in the following, according to Anderson and Brent (1993, p. 123) :

In many classrooms, the emphasis is on integration of the language arts as students communicate and interact with each other and with print. Opportunities to read, write, speak and listen grow out of meaningful experiences and students’ responses rather than being dictated by pre-determined skills list.

As abovementioned, language and communication arts have become a significant part of classroom learning, although the problem is in the lack of attention that educators give to this area of development. Citing these elements, this study sets up the following objectives:

  • Review existing literature on developing listening skills, both in general and specified concerns like the grade school classroom setting.
  • Create a method of research to test the cited options based on the cited literature.
  • Draw up a list of recommendations on what lessons or styles that should be incorporated in order to develop listening skills in the grade school classroom setting.
  • Draw up a list of recommendations for further studies.

Generally, the working thesis of this study is more on testing; given that some of these related literatures are results of previous studies and current studies and testing on the subject, the pool of knowledge on listening skills development is composed of a mixture of classroom strategies that can be adopted in universal and various levels. From this, the methodology that is going to be created is based on the feasibility of these studies and how it can be applied in the classroom setting. The established goal of this study is to answer the thesis question that goes, “Can specific classroom lessons that focus on listening skills improve the overall performance of elementary children?”, and since the cited literature can answer this question, what can be hypothesized based on this question and the availability of resources is Teaching styles and that integrate listening skills development strategies can help improve the overall performance of grade school children.

Scope and Limitation

In answering the question and proving the hypothesis, this paper is exploratory and descriptive in approach through the use of the cited relevant literature and not through actual testing. However, this paper designs a methodology for testing purposes based on the cited classroom strategies. Since that the cited literature is a mixture of topics, in which certain articles also tackle the development of listening skills among adults and tertiary-level students, relevant strategies from these articles are deemed cited, thus, as long as it can be applied at a grade school level, these approaches can be further enhanced to fit within the established age group.

Primary Source

Anderson, P. & Brent, R. 1993. Developing children’s classroom listening strategies. The Reading Teacher, 47, 122-126.

A heading in this article goes,

Classroom activities offer excellent opportunities for students to become good listeners. Teachers should model good listening, teach skill and strategies lessons, and provide meaningful reasons for listening.

This article generally covers in a scenic example how listening skills can be integrated in the classroom setting. Moreover, it points out the percentage of how listening plays in the whole information process, and it cites Hunsaer (1990), that “While 80% of what one knows is acquired through listening, most adults operate no better than a 25% efficiency level, suggesting that practice alone does not lead to skill (Anderson and Brent, 1993, p. 123). Thus, this also suggests that the phase in which a person is in the earlier stages of developing the skill is a significant period as this also becomes a habit-forming skill rather than something that is acquired out of necessity.

This article stresses on the importance of model listening in which the teacher also plays the role of the good listener. In a cited scenario, the article tells of a situation in which the effective teacher uses listening skills as a primary medium in the classroom in which directions and information are passed through this channel. Since the typical problem in teaching listening skills is this subject may not be the priority of the day’s class plan, the article comes up with a set of suggestions on how listening skills can still be taught alongside the everyday classroom grind.

As for the venue, Anderson and Brent see the opportunity in classroom discussions, one-on-one conferences, Author’s Chair, reading aloud to class, and Readers’ Theater. Classroom discussions are venues where the students can actively share information and interact with the rest of the class. These discussions teach the children to listen to a single speaker while being in a large crowd, and other instances like students speaking at the same time, yelling at each other, or the whole class being simply unruly. Thus, the student’s attention can be diverted from source to the next while maintaining a degree on concentration on what one student is saying to the next.

In one-on-one conferences, this gives the student and the teacher the opportunity to communicate. Through these sessions, the teacher can discuss matters with the all the individual students by bringing up daily classroom concerns. From this, the student learns how to focus and witness the teacher itself on the amount of focus the elder is giving in this set-up.

Furthermore, Anderson and Brent enumerate the following on how listening instruction can be utilized in the classroom:

Identify the needed skill or strategy

From this, the teacher can assess the situation, whether the skill that needs to be developed is not just listening but also strategizing how to divert the students’ attention from specific distractions.

Teach the Lesson

The teacher can actually introduce listening as the subject for learning that day. Using channels like the Author’s Chair, and once the teacher establishes it is a lesson, the students will realize the importance of the subject.

Supervise practice and debriefing

Based on the “listening lessons”, the teacher may ask students to identify means how to block any distractions and to make them concentrate more while listening. It can be encouraged that students should learn how to adopt different strategies as one distraction may require a different strategy from the next. Through practice and debriefing, the responsiveness required in the activity is set, thus, the students can apply the other strategies they hear from their classmates or formulate one themselves.

  • Review skills and strategies previously taught.
  • Select strategies for specific situations.

Students are encouraged to think ahead of their strategies everytime a certain class segment like Author’s Chair takes place. This gives the students the chance to think of the discussed strategies, and applying them is something that would eventually develop their skills and form good listening habits.

As a primary source, this article has enumerated what could be the effective strategies that can be adopted to improve listening skills. Although these examples may not be workable in certain grade levels like the older ones, what the teacher can do is enhance these approach in order to maintain a certain degree of class involvement in listening skills development.

Secondary Sources

Hennings, D.G. 1992. Beyond the Read Aloud: Learning to Read Through Listening to and Reflecting On Literature. Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa International.

This book promotes the act of reflective listening as a means to construct the meaning of the read text; this book also directs various strategies on reflective listening in kindergarten, junior high, and non-fiction reflective listening in the fourth grade. Thus, through the exercise of reflective listening, listening skills are developed as the whole process of decoding the read text and constructing meaning takes place.

Strategies in reflective listening are enumerated as follows (Hennings, 1992, p. 5):

  • Preparing by: activating prior knowledge, anticipating and predicting, and raising questions.
  • Connecting by: visualizing and drawing, inferring, generalizing, applying generalizations, comparing and contrasting, thinking of related points and examples, organizing by arranging in a systematic or graphic way, and feeling.
  • Extending by: thinking critically and thinking creatively.
  • Monitoring comprehension.

Thus, in summary, what can happen is the students’ cognitive and comprehensive process gets activated if reflective listening is encouraged, thus, given there are the preparatory measures in order to practice this, the teacher can extend lessons on how reflective listening can be effective while listening to read texts. Examples of these preparatory strategies are (p. 6):

  • telling oneself: recalling facts and ideas on the subject;
  • talking out: chatting with others about the meanings the subject holds for the listener or reader;
  • brainstorming: free-association about the subject with words and ideas recorded randomly as they surface;
  • webbing: free-association with words and ideas recorded in a web-like arrangement to highlight interrelationships;
  • charting and outlining: organized, structured thinking about a subject with ideas recorded systematically as a chart with rows and columns or as an outline with topics and subtopics;
  • drawing and writing: drawing pictures or writing sentences and paragraphs that summarize what one knows, believes, or feels about the subject.

Connell, P., Horner, D., Kidd, G. & Watson, C. 2003. Sensory, Cognitive, and Linguistic Factors in the Early Academic Performance of Elementary School Children: The Benton IU Project. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 35, 165-198.

This article presents an actual study of testing of elementary school children from Benton County, Indiana over a 3-year period in which it gave standardized tests on sensory, perceptual, linguistic, intellectual and cognitive subjects. The assessment results to that speech processing factor, which is the ability to understand speech under difficult listening conditions was the weakest predictor of academic achievement, thus, this stresses the importance that listening skills should be developed among elementary school children.

Johnson, L. & Pugach, Marleen. 2004 February. Listening Skills to Facilitate Effective Communication. Counseling and Human Development, 36, 1-8.

This article enumerates a number of strategies that can be adopted in listening skills; although this is directed to adult professionals, some of the points can be used and applied in an elementary classroom setting, and this includes, as modified:

  • Make it clear to the person you are talking to, like a teacher or a classmate, that you are ready to listen by not speaking and encouraging body language that you are in the right mindset to listen.
  • If something is not clear, always ask to clarify. This also helps the speaker enhance his or her own communication skills since his or her thoughts are reflected.
  • Use the information that is relayed to you throughout the conversation; this helps the conversation to move forward.

Although it is directed at the tertiary level, this paper listening awareness and importance among students were assessed, in which it results to identifying the areas that affect listening:

  • interest in topic or activity
  • attitude toward topic and presenter
  • distractions — environmental or personal
  • presenter (speaker) nonverbal behavior
  • time of activity
  • organizational format of topic
  • language (jargon)
  • bias of presenter or listener
  • listener’s involvement in activity
  • personal attributes

Given these conditions, this points out which areas of an individual that would become influential factors in the whole aspect of the listening process itself.

Grandgenett, D., Grandgenett, N. & Thompson, F. 1999. Helping Disadvantaged Learners Build Effective Listening Skills. Education, 120, 130+

This article points out how children’s behavior can be highly affected by a number of factors like disadvantages at home and other relevant settings. Moreover, the article further supports that listening is a skill that can be taught, and it enumerates how humans listen based on the following levels:

(1) Tuning out what is being said

(2) Pretending to hear the message

(3) Selectively hearing only parts of a conversation

(4) Attentive listening, and

(5) Empathetic listening – listening with the intent to understand.

Given these levels, along with the psychological and behavioral aspects of teaching instruction among children, an approach can be created although in some instances, it can be on a case-to-case basis.

Cronin, M. 1993. Teaching Listening Skills Via Interactive Videodisc. T H E Journal, 21, 62+

This article presents a more technological and interactive approach when it comes to listening instruction: an IMI program that identifies bad listening habits, overcoming these habits, assessment of personal listening behavior, and enhancement of listening skills. Generally, what this program does is to make sure that the users become highly involved with the program that games and other interactive measures become a form of test for the users to find out whether they were listening or not.

The article presents a testing on select students whether this method can significantly improve higher immediate cognitive scores and higher pre-to-post-test gain scores as compared to those in the controlled group. Thus, given that this medium is an interesting method to learn something, non-formal means can be a channel that can be incorporated in the classroom setting.

Gimpel, G. & Merrell, K. 1998. Social Skills of Children and Adolescents: conceptualization, Assessment, Treatment. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

This book discusses the social factor among children and adolescents. This is a useful references in determining a factor of child psychology in this sense, particularly when it comes to social skills. Since listening skills is considered to be among them, the background that this book gives becomes a foundation, particularly when it comes to tackling issues such as gender and ethnocultural factors.


Based on the abovementioned factors of the relevant literature, the methodology will be based on the following categories of teaching:

  • Integrated teaching strategies in listening skills.
  • The use of learning tools like software, and other means through non-formal education measures.
  • Psychological testing or cognitive factors testing.

These three categories can somehow determine whether it is necessary to have a separate lesson or subject that focuses on listening skills. The method can be done through the following:

  • Classroom observation – observing classes between teachers that integrate listening skills as their strategy versus those who don’t; from this, students from these classes can become a comparative reference of difference as to which ones have more improved skills.
  • Group testing – Similar to the testing done on the software, this can also be done as to whether students respond well to this method.
  • Profiling – this method can easily determine as to whether background and other psychological factors can affect listening skills.

It is recommended that the test measures used among these three methods are similar as to determine which method would yield the highest scores. Thus, if classroom integration has the highest, it means that creating another lesson for listening skills may be unnecessary. However, the utilization of other tools like software and extra-curricular exercises can be used as complementary measures for listening skills development. The factor of profiling however highlights the need for human involvement like counseling or contacting the child’s parents.

Conclusions and Recommendations

There are a number of means to help elementary school students to develop their listening skills, however, the problem is always whether it is a practical measure or not. This paper attests to the importance of listening skills, particularly on how it can affect communication and interaction skills, and generally, the well-being of the student that will be helpful in the future. Thus, in summary, it is recommended:

  • Listening skills are social skills, thus, students can improve on this area through the development of effective communication.
  • Effective communication works both ways: listening skills and communication skills. Adopting a reflective approach on both skills can be a vast improvement in the overall communication skills.
  • Listening skills should be taught and practiced by the teachers. Families and parents can also participate in this area.
  • There are other means to improve learning, and that is the utilization of other learning tools like interaction and technology.

From this initial feasibility, it can be recommended that further studies may tackle on the creation of complementary or non-formal measures when it comes to developing listening skills. Based on the software testing, it was successful that it brought improvement to those who used it. However, this remains to be further tested as technology may divert the interest of these students when it comes to traditional learning.


Anderson, P. & Brent, R. 1993. Developing children’s classroom listening strategies. The Reading Teacher, 47, 122-126.

Connell, P., Horner, D., Kidd, G. & Watson, C. 2003. Sensory, Cognitive, and Linguistic Factors in the Early Academic Performance of Elementary School Children: The Benton IU Project. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 35, 165-198.

Cronin, M. 1993. Teaching Listening Skills Via Interactive Videodisc. T H E Journal, 21, 62+

Gimpel, G. & Merrell, K. 1998. Social Skills of Children and Adolescents: Conceptualization, Assessment, Treatment. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Grandgenett, D., Grandgenett, N. & Thompson, F. 1999. Helping Disadvantaged Learners Build Effective Listening Skills. Education, 120, 130+

Hennings, D.G. 1992. Beyond the Read Aloud: Learning to Read Through Listening to and Reflecting On Literature. Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa International.

Johnson, L. & Pugach, Marleen. 2004 February. Listening Skills to Facilitate Effective Communication. Counseling and Human Development, 36, 1-8.